I wonder if, a year into Covid-19, you find yourself where I am: imposing masks onto memories; starting when people in media, even media from before, don’t observe social distancing guidelines. Amending my travel desires: last February, I dreamt of Fiji; this year, I’d happily settle for a safe weekend in Wisconsin. That’s a sensibility that arose when we were planning for this issue, too: Kristine Morris, one of our most trusted reviewers, jumped at the opportunity to cover travel memoirs, because she, like the rest of us, is all too ready to get back to that old normal.
We miss the world.
But even approaching topics like travel has changed. Our starred review of The Passenger, an account of cruise ship terrors, was written before oceanic trips carried with them the fear of being trapped on board by disease. For its author Chaney Kwak, the horrors of the ocean’s powers were quite enough. It’s a harrowing account of being tossed about in the waves, wondering if he’d ever reach land again, and still one that you can’t help but read differently now. And that extends to other places of the feature, where travels take people abroad, yes, but are also internal, where they involve visiting the past as much as a different location.
The world looks different now.
And yet we’re reaching out to you to announce this issue with anticipation, as the world changes again. As the Covid-19 vaccine disseminates, we can look forward to a return to something more familiar—though I expect we’ll all still be startled, for a while, when folks in the books we read operate without acknowledging the challenges of this strange time.
As I was revisiting the titles covered in this electric, colorful issue, I was reminded of previous human recoveries from unanticipated challenges and disasters, too. Several of the novels we’re excited about are from postwar periods: Tante Eva is set after the fall of communism, and The Hot Summer of 1968 during the loosening of its power in Czechoslovakia; the buzzworthy novel Roundabout of Death is set during the Syrian Civil War. And our science fiction titles acknowledge that such challenges come in waves, and that we could face them in the future, too.
The world is ever changing.
Lest this note come to seem dark, it’s important to note that such changes also have positives. Our LGBTQ+ special section is always a favorite, and ended up being the most starred section of this issue. It’s thick with gorgeous poetry collections that challenge the limiting lies we tell ourselves about gender and orientation; it features short stories that show how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go. We’re so excited to introduce these books to you, from literary powerhouses like A Door Behind a Door and Here is a Game We Could Play, to the adorable romance of the royal family-centered The Queen Has a Cold. There’s such joy, such boldness, and such love in this feature that we can’t stop raving about its titles.
We are ready to rejoin the world and embrace the company we’ve been missing. Until then, the summer-soaked, sympathetic, and vibrant books of this issue can serve as a bridge. We hope you love them, too.
Michelle Anne Schingler
Image on front cover from R is for Rainbow, written and illustrated by Kim Ferreira. Used with permission from Peter E. Randall Publisher.
Image above from The Girl’s Guide to Building a Fort: Outdoor + Indoor Adventures for Hands-on Girls by Jenny Fieri, Alexis Seabrook (Illustrator). Used with permission from Andrews McMeel Publishing.
Michelle Anne Schingler